Traditional media images of ninjas depict them as solitary and good at doing things some (especially pirates) would term anti-social. The TechNet Wiki Ninjas are a community of TNWIKI users that are social, and care about sharing their cognitive surplus with the IT Pro and Dev world audience. If you are in New Orleans this week, stop by TechEd 2010 and say hi to the wikininjas in the community lounge.

The Wired magazine article casts the wiki contribution value proposition this way:

When someone buys a TV, the number of consumers goes up by one, but the number of producers stays the same. When someone buys a computer or mobile phone, the number of consumers and producers both increase by one.

The wiki ninjas and other TNWIKI contributors are on the way to 1000 articles.

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Why do they do this? What’s in it for them? Microsoft higher-ups are interested to learn “how do we motivate these people?”

I say, first do no harm. Next, trust them. Get out of their way, let them do what they do best. On the wiki this is expressed as “Don’t do things that destroy community.”

More interesting insights from the Wired article…

Pink: We have a biological drive. We eat when we’re hungry, drink when we’re thirsty, have sex to satisfy our carnal urges. We also have a second drive—we respond to rewards and punishments in our environment. But what we’ve forgotten—and what the science shows—is that we also have a third drive. We do things because they’re interesting, because they’re engaging, because they’re the right things to do, because they contribute to the world. The problem is that, especially in our organizations, we stop at that second drive. We think the only reason people do productive things is to snag a carrot or avoid a stick. But that’s just not true. Our third drive—our intrinsic motivation—can be even more powerful.

Both of us cite research from University of Rochester psychologist Edward Deci showing that if you give people a contingent reward—as in “if you do this, then you’ll get that”—for something they find interesting, they can become less interested in the task. When Deci took people who enjoyed solving complicated puzzles for fun and began paying them if they did the puzzles, they no longer wanted to play with those puzzles during their free time. And the science is overwhelming that for creative, conceptual tasks, those if-then rewards rarely work and often do harm.